Fleas are very active insects, feeding on blood from dogs and people. They jump onto passing animals and burrow down into the fur to the skin, where they stay well hidden while causing severe itching and inflammation. Here are five ways to inspect your dog for fleas before it becomes a problem.
In severe infestations, it’s easy to spot fleas jumping and moving on and off your dog’s body. In less obvious situations, you may notice that your dog is restless and is scratching, licking, or chewing more than normal on certain areas of the body. Shaking the head often and scratching at the ears is another indication of a possible flea infestation in your dog.
To inspect your dog for fleas, turn the dog onto its back and check the best hiding areas. The armpits and groin are two areas that tend to be warm and protected, making them perfect for fleas. The ears are another hiding area for fleas; check for scratching, redness, blood, or dirt. The skin on the belly, groin, or base of the tail, meanwhile, may appear red and bumpy if your dog has fleas. Another tell-tale sign of fleas is hairloss and scabbing.
Get a flea comb (a specially made comb with closely set teeth) and run it through the hair on your dog’s back and legs. The comb’s teeth are designed to catch and pull fleas out from under the haircoat where they are hiding. Make sure you get close to the skin when running the comb through the hair so you have a greater chance of getting to where the fleas are hiding out. Have a bowl of soapy water on hand to throw any live fleas into as you comb.
Fleas don’t just stay on your dog. They can also be found all through your house, and especially in areas where your dog spends a lot of time. Closely examine your dog’s feeding area, bedding, and favorite locations for signs of flea dirt (black specks), or for the fleas themselves. A method you can use to search for flea dirt in the house is to wear white socks and walk through areas frequented by your dog. Fleas and/or flea dirt may be picked up by the fibers of the socks and will stand out on the white background.
If you can’t find any signs of actual fleas on your dog or in your living environment, or if you have done the full flea eradication treatment on your dog and home but your dog is still scratching excessively, it’s time to ask your veterinarian for advice. He or she will help you determine the cause of your dog’s discomfort and suggest treatment options.